Big Wednesday (released 26 May 1978)
A-Team / Warner Bros
Director: John Milius (Conan the Barbarian)
Writers: John Milius, Dennis Aaberg
Girls: Patti D’Arbanville born 1951 (Sally), Lee Purcell born 1947 (Peggy)
Boys: Jan-Michael Vincent 1945–2019 (Matt), William Katt born 1951 (Jack), Gary Busey born 1944 (Leroy), Johnny Fain born 1943 (Breathman)
Surfers: Gerry Lopez born 1948
Olds: Barbara Hale 1922–2017 (Mrs Barlow), Sam Melville 1936–1989 (Bear)
Big Wednesday Gets Caught in Some Rough Surf: Buddyhood of Surfing
Janet Maslin, The New York Times July 28, 1978
IT wasn’t very long ago that John Milius’s expensive, ambitious “Big Wednesday” was one of the more widely touted movies on the horizon, so what’s it doing sneaking into Flagship theaters for only a weeklong run? The honorable thing, that’s what. “Big Wednesday” isn’t even a tiny fraction of what it was once cracked up to be. The surprise is not that Mr. Milius has made such a resoundingly awful film, but rather that he’s made a bland one. …
Mr. Milius’s three adventurers, whom we watch over the course of 12 years and still never get to know, have an unbecoming horror of growing up, not just of growing old. “It’s really different here,” gushes a girl from Chicago who is just becoming initiated to the glories of beach life in L.A. “Back home, being young was just something you’d do until you grew up. Here . . . it’s everything!”
Being young means different things to our three respective heroes. For Leroy (Gary Busey), it’s a chance to experience the joys of painting his torso with what looks like barbecue sauce and then trying to crawl into an oven. For Jack (William Katt), it’s going to Vietnam for three years and then coming home expecting an old girlfriend to be a current girlfriend, even though he hasn’t kept in close enough touch with her to find out she’s now married. For Matt (Mr. Vincent), it means saying everying he needs to say through very careful flexing of the neck and the nostrils.
For all of them, being young means acquiring a kind of oral history of wavesmanship from a senior surfer named Bear.
Mr. Milius’s attention to his actors focuses more closely on their pectorals than on their performances. He encourages such stiffness in his players that Barbara Hale, for instance, is quite unconvincing as Mr. Katt’s mother. This is a faux pas of no mean eminence; after all, Miss Hale actually is Mr. Katt’s mother.